AKC eNewsletter

Fall 2009
AKC Companion Events
Obedience, Rally, Tracking, and Agility: Where Dogs of All Breeds Prove Their Intelligence and Trainability

Times are changing and the world’s largest and second-oldest purebred-dog registry now has competition-competition in registration, dog-related sports, venues, competition for exhibitors new and old alike, and for resources.

Louise Fox Meredith and her Border Collie Ch./OTCH Highland Toucho Tartan, UDX6, compete at the 2007 AKC/Eukanuba Obedience National, held in Long Beach, California.

This competition requires the American Kennel Club to reevaluate how dogs are registered, and how we show, trial, and train in addition to how dogs—show and pet alike—are represented. With so many other options available to dog owners, we are tasked with showing why the AKC remains the best choice for the public and their canines. We must show how we are not just champion dogs, but the dog’s champion.

AKC Companion Events is one of the areas where every dog owner can participate, while teaching their dogs the fundamentals of basic obedience and advanced training.

One of the many ways the AKC proves itself in its support of dogs is through its various competitions that highlight the form and function of our canine companions.

The AKC’s companion events are designed to show and test how well a trained dog reacts upon command or direction; the bond between dog and handler is at the very core of obedience, rally, tracking, and agility. They are open to all purebreds, including altered animals and those with conformation faults.

Additionally, the AKC is pleased to announce that mixed-breed dogs will soon be eligible to compete in obedience, rally, and agility.

Meet the Family
In 1933, Helene Whitehouse Walker introduced the American Kennel Club and the fancy to obedience as a sport with a demonstration event. On March 10, 1936, the AKC approved eight pages of regulations establishing obedience as a competitive sport.

Our regulations have grown well beyond the original eight pages, but the basic purpose of obedience has remained the same since its development as a sport: “The basic objective of obedience trials is to recognize dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of obedience at all times and under all conditions.” (AKC Obedience Regulations)

Rally participant attentively awaits handler’s command to begin rally competition course.

AKC Rally®, the companion sport to AKC Obedience, is the newest of the companion-event sports, having become a titling event in 2005.

Like obedience, rally requires teamwork between dog and handler and has similar performance skills. “Rally provides an excellent introduction to AKC Companion Events for new dogs and handlers and can provide a challenging opportunity for competitors in other events to strengthen their skills.” (AKC Rally Regulations)

Tracking was originally part of the requirements to obtain a Utility obedience (UD) title. Tracking broke away from obedience trials in 1947 and became its own sport, growing over the years to consist of three levels of competition: Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). According to the Tracking Regulations, “The purpose of tracking is to demonstrate the dog's ability to recognize and follow human scent, a skill useful in the service of mankind.” AKC Tracking is open to all breeds and boasts titles from some of the least likely of dogs.

Agility became a titling sport for the AKC in 1994. For the past 15 years it has been the AKC’s fastest-growing sport, and the AKC is currently the largest agility avenue in the United States. Dogs representing AKC program have competed all over the world, consistently placing and bringing home medals.

The Regulations for Agility Trials say, “The purpose of AKC agility trials is to afford owners the opportunity to demonstrate a dog’s physical ability/soundness and willingness to work with its handler under a variety of conditions.”

Sara Pisani and Labrador Retriever OTCH/CT Connemara Jasmine, VCD1, UDX3, RE, participate in the 2007 AKC National Tracking Invitational, held at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

The Gateway
As breeders, we have established the standards for our breeds. Not only is a dog’s conformation important, we have included such categories as “general appearance” and “temperament,” wherein we further describe sound characteristic traits preferred in our breeds.

In many breed standards, the following words are used: intelligent, intelligent and adaptable, highly intelligent, willingness to please, eager to please, willingness to work, a willing worker, outgoing, and ready for action with family members. These are ideal characteristics for dogs involved in the companion sports.

We realize that all homes may not be conformation homes and all dogs may not make it to a breed championship.

Companion events provide a gateway to explore and demonstrate the characteristics and traits we mention in our standards. This gateway is an additional path to individual and family fun, and a way to meet others who share a common bond in our sports and the love of their dogs.

Gordon Simmons-Moake runs his German Shepherd Dog Biitza Vom Ronin Haus’s, winner of the 24-inch class at the 2008 AKC/Eukanuba Agility Invitational, held in Long Beach, California.

Some Good Questions
Now that we’ve gone through some basics on companion events, think about how the AKC and its related affiliations and events can assist you as breeders:

  • Are you aware of the other competitive activities and resources sponsored by the AKC available to dogs and their owners?
  • When you discuss the purchase of a puppy or acquisition of an older dog with a client, do you include discussion on the above traits found in your breed and how dogs with these very traits excel in companion events?
  • Do you discuss your breed’s parent club and breed related sponsored events?
  • Do you discuss the AKC and local AKC clubs and resources?
  • Are you familiar with the benefits of AKC Companion Animal Recovery?
  • Do you discuss how companion events were developed to promote and test the training of all dogs?
  • Do you discuss breed-specific performance and how they were developed to test and maintain the heritage of the breed?
  • Do you discuss and promote future training and activities available within your breed that different family members may want to explore further?

Companion and performance events are available to people of all lifestyles and ages. They promote responsible dog ownership and family activities, and they foster an irreplaceable bond between the dog and family members. Look deep into your reasoning for using the AKC name in the sale and advertisement of your puppies and dogs.

The AKC means many things to many people but is first recognized as the registry of sound dogs, developed through the standards set forth by parent clubs and breeders who are true to their specific breeds.

The purpose of this article is to provide you with information on AKC companion events and assistance in the promotion of responsible dog ownership and your dogs. Unfortunately, many breeders and dog owners have a limited background in what the AKC means and stands for.

As breeders and dog owners, you can arm yourself with additional information covering the above questions and more with a simple interaction with akc.org, the AKC web site. This information can assist you in the sale of your puppies or placement of an older dog in addition to strengthening recognition of the AKC brand name and its affiliated clubs and resources in your area.

We encourage you to look beyond just the resources mentioned. Look into the AKC affiliates and how they can benefit you as a breeder and the person or family purchasing your dogs.

By arming yourself with basic information on what is available for your breed, and the new puppy or dog owner, you now become an invaluable resource to potential and current dog owners. Promote the AKC’s services, and encourage your clients to explore the opportunities afforded to them by registering their dog with the AKC; you will be amazed at what the dogs you have bred can achieve inside and outside the conformation ring, and the new owners will be amazed at the lifelong bond you have helped them forge.

If nothing else, get involved in the training and promotion of training within your breed, and get to know the AKC and the resources it has to offer.

More Information
For more information, go to AKC's Events page and then use the left-hand menu to find the companion event of your choice.

Curt Curtis is Assistant Vice President of AKC Companion Event

Ronald N. Rella, Director, Breeder Services
Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org
Customer Service | Phone: 919-233-9767 | Email: info@akc.org

© The American Kennel Club 2009